ALL SORTS by Fr. Bernard Basset, S.J.
IT may now be confirmed that there will be a Contact afternoon at the Cenacle Convent, Hampstead, on Saturday, September 7. These afternoons are almost as old as "All Sorts" which began in 1947. Mother Thornton initiated "Contacts" soon after the war when evacuees, exiles, overseas students were flowing into London and badly needed a meeting place. Six steps ahead of Cardinal Bea, Mother Thornton welcomed non-Catholics. indeed. people of all and every creed. Her idea caught on and at one time there were as many as fifteen Contact afternoons in different parts of England. Less is heard of these today but the original Contacts still goes on. You need no qualifications to attend save the strength to climb the famous hill, Alight from the No. 2 or 13 bus at Plaits Lane and, whatever your religious tenets, whisper a prayer for breath.
write this in Newcastle where am giving an eight day retreat. Is there a better tonic for the soul than to visit Northumberland? Each time I come, I am astonished by the kindness, intelligence and dignity of the Geordies and I do not say this just to please Aliso in London, Frank in Bournemouth or other North country friends. in Newcastle one senses again the thrill of real family life. The children here retain the dignity and discipline missing now in so many other parts. You should sec them all sitting in orderly queues outside the Fenham public baths. My altar servers move with a decorum and impassivity not attempted in St. Peter's, Rome. Above all, it is a joy to see the number of family Parties, Mum. Dad. four or five children setting out for a picnic untroubled by Rachman, Ward, Lord Denning, Fleet Street, Christine Keeler or anyone else.
St. Mary's, Fenham
The Catholic Church in the North East is little known in other parts of the country but .even the warriors from Lancashire and Yorkehire might have to pull their socks up if they came North of Darlington. I recall with astonishment the massive rally at Ushaw for the martyrs, last year. Ushaw is known all over the world but one has to come to Durham to discover the influence of this great seminary in Tyne-Tees life. Great as are the seminaries at Ware, Wonersh, Heythorp, Blackfriars. Oscott, Upholland and the other places, I doubt if any enjoy as massive a local reputation as Ushaw does. It is the same with St. Mary's Training College, Pens ham, now in the tender hands of builders who are throwing up a couple of new wings. When I knew Fenharn first, the Training College numbered just a hundred. now it is preparing for five hundred and with a Grammar School for six hundred just a little further up the road. At a guess some 1,300 lunches are served each day.
Mother Angela Ward left Fenham for good the day before I arrived. There was sorrow indeed for she had been principal of the Training College for thrity-seven years. When first I met her. she and the students were evacuees at Swinburne Castle and we could stroll to the Roman Wall running near the Castle grounds. Mother Ward led her flock out of the wilderness of wartime and into the promised land. One up on Moses, she was able to dispense the milk and honey which the various Ministries now provide. Gardens. hostels. libraries flourished overnight. The tributes to her wisdom and influence, paid by learned bodies all over the region, make one rub one's ears and eyes. Newcastle. though enormous, is still intimate in spirit and thirty-seven years of work for the teachers of Newcastle has produced a personal response.
Readers who require a spiritual tonic will apply at the Public Library for Fr. Alfred Delp's remarkable book "Facing Death". Fr, Delp cannot enjoy the pleasure to seeing his book so successful for he was executed by the Nazis in Berlin. I once saw a frightening photograph of this poor priest standing before his judges in a People's Court. There was hatred on all the faces round him but he looked astonishingly calm. The notes and prayers which he made during his long months in a Berlin prison awaiting execution compare in dignity and confidence to the last letters of St. Thomas More. Fr. Delp makes it clear that he does not want to die. He describes his fear quite openly. His observations, smuggled out of jail just before his execution. not only open our eyes to the way that faith works in a crisis hut provide a staggering "close up" of heroism.
Three-men, each hard of hearing Were travelling in a London train. Said one "Is this Wembley?" Answered the second "No, it's Thursday." Added the third "So am I so make it three."